My son is 4 weeks old and has been breastfed and also ‘topped up’ with formula since he was a week old. He is now almost a kilo above his birth weight and appears very healthy, so I would like to breast fed exclusively. Is it possible to wean him off the formula?
You are very sensible to want to wean off the top-ups now that your baby is thriving, because as long as you are offering formula your breasts aren’t getting signals to make the entire amount of milk your baby needs. Also, there is the risk that your baby will start to find bottle-feeding easier due to the different sucking action required, so will take more and more milk from bottles and less from the breast. Babies who do this often seem to wean quite suddenly and this can be very upsetting to mothers who want to continue breastfeeding.
If you do need to offer topups from a bottle, try finishing your baby’s feed at the breast. This way, your baby associates his full tummy with mummy and the breast, rather than the bottle of milk. You will also feel much better – it’s quite demoralising to have an insettled baby gulp down a bottle of milk but mothers who offer the breast after bottle topups say they enjoy nursing their calm, relaxed baby. And, as your baby nurses at the breast, even if he isn’t sucking vigorously, this gives your breasts an extra boost of stimulation by encouraging milk drainage and enhancing the release of milk making hormones.
To elminate ‘top ups,’ you can gradually decrease the amount in each bottle, which may mean your baby needs to be fed more frequently for a few days, until your supply catches up with his needs or, another option is to go more ‘cold turkey’ :Plan a few days at home, stock up the fridge with nutritious food and drink and focus on resting and breastfeeding. Fill your feeding basket with healthy snacks – try munching on Boobie Bikkies between meals – and perhaps hire some good DVDs. Then relax and breastfeed your baby as long as he wants and snuggle him skin to skin between feeds. However, please observe your baby closely – if he isn’t having enough wet nappies or is unsetted and seems hungry, remember your first priority is ‘feed the baby’ . As I mention in my free ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally’ it’s important to trouble shoot reasons for a low milk supply and to seek guidance from a health professional such as a lactation consultant, your baby health nurse or GP.
Another suggestion if you have been offering quite a bit of formula is to express milk (which stimulates your supply) so that bottle top-ups are expressed breast milk rather than formula. However, this can be quite stressful and still doesn’t eliminate the bottle. Besides, if you have a willing baby who sucks effectively, it is far easier to simply put him to the breast more often and the skin to skin contact will stimulate milk production hormones that help boost your supply. Relaxing and snuggling is lovely for bonding too.
As formula takes longer to digest and tends to ‘zonk’ babies, your baby may seem a bit unsettled after feeds for a few days if he is used to having a bottle as well. You could try distracting him by taking him for a walk in a sling after a feed or get your partner to walk him (there won’t be a milky smell to remind him about feeding more).
For more information about increasing your milk supply, download Pinky’s free ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally’ and for a nutritional boost, grab a free sample of Boobie Bikkies (or why not save by buying in bulk and ordering a subscription’).